Governor George Deukmejian: The Passing of a Great American Hero and True Armenian Icon
It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the passing of one of the supreme patriarchs of the Armenian Diaspora. If one person embodied the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Armenian people in the wake of the Armenian Genocide, it was Courken George Deukmejian, Jr.
Born in the State of New York in 1929 to parents who hailed from the Western Armenian city of Aintab and who were survivors of our horrific national dispossession, George Deukmejian was a kind, humble, brilliant man of impeccable integrity who devoted his career to public service.
Serving the United States of America in myriad capacities, he was a veteran of the United States Army and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. A lawyer by education and training, he decided early on to take the high road in profession as in life, sacrificing his own personal gains in the private sector to instead pursue a career dedicated to public service. Deukmejian served as a California State Assemblyman and as a California State Senator who believed in and promulgated a public policy of law and order and fiscal conservatism. He continued his rise in the public sector with his election as California State Attorney General and then became the first governor in the United States of Armenian descent when he was elected Governor of the State of California in 1982.
In the process, at every turn, and at each elevation of stature, he never forgot his Armenian roots. He was present and addressed the audience when the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument was dedicated in Montebello, California, the first such monument to be placed on public land. As Governor, he empowered many of his fellow Armenians by appointments to the judiciary, California State commissions and other government positions where Armenians had not had the opportunity to previously serveor where they were under-represented.
In the words of Armenian Bar Chairperson Saro Kerkonian, “With the passing of Governor Deukmejian, we mourn the loss of a man who represented the best of humanity. We are grateful to a man we knew to be loving, caring, humble, yet strong, a man who led an exemplary life as a beloved husband to his wife Gloria, a father and grandfather. In so many ways, he was a man who personified Armenian family values. We grieve the passing of a warrior and a champion of the Armenian Cause.”
Armenian Bar Board member Lucy Varpetian, whom Governor Deukmejian personally mentored while she was a law student, fondly reflected: “As an organization, we had the great honor of welcoming Governor Deukmejian’s participation at multiple Association events over a long span of almost 30 years. And I count myself among the luckiest of aspiring lawyers to have received the gift of wisdom and common sense from this noblest of men. Beyond the many individual lives he touched, so momentous were his contributions to the well-being of the Armenian people as a whole and to our organizational mission that the Armenian Bar Association bestowed upon Governor Deukmejian its highest accolade, Honorary Life Member.”
The members of the Armenian Bar Association will always remember George Deukmejian‘s unwavering moral support, guidance and encouragement from our very inception. His exemplary life of public service will remain a limitless source of inspiration to us all.
At this time of mourning, we find solace in the knowledge that Courken George Deukmejian, Jr. served God and the Armenian Nation and that he is resting with our Lord. His glorious spirit will live on eternally.
Asdvadz Hokeen Loosavoreh
Armenian Bar Association